The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If that saying still holds true, then it makes sense how the ever-changing landscape of sports will have little effect in altering one’s perception of a good underdog story. Although many can respect any dominating force in the sports world, there comes a time when that proverbial giant must fall. For every giant, therefore, there must be a “giant slayer.”

Olympic bronze medalist and Cuban-born flyweight standout Alexis Vila has slayed some giants in his time.

When Vila boasted an undefeated record of 9-0 and entered into a Bellator 51 main-event spot opposite the promotion’s then-featherweight champion Joe Warren, he knew he held underdog status. After all, Warren had defeated Joe Soto in 2010 and sported a gold belt around his waist. Following a controversial decision win over Marcos Galvao, Warren announced his intentions to compete in Bellator’s season-five bantamweight tournament. Much like Vila, Warren never competed in an official bantamweight bout prior to the tournament, but nevertheless, he came in as the favorite to take the tourney.

Vila, who was 40 years old at the time, came into the bout with a reputation for finishes, but he was older and smaller. “The Exorcist,” a natural flyweight, hadn’t fought anyone like Warren before, but that fact only served to motivate him. Besides the hype surrounding Warren, Vila found motivation in something he wanted at his own weight class, but couldn’t find.

“[The Warren fight] was because I didn’t have a fight at 125 [pounds],” Vila told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “A lot of people didn’t want to fight me, and I think Warren was a giant at 136, as a bantamweight, so I moved to 135.”

Vila would go on to not only defeat Warren, a major upset in itself, but also knock him out in just 64 seconds of the first round. The win put Vila into the semifinals, where he scored a victory over Marcos Galvao before losing to eventual tournament winner Eduardo Dantas. Vila’s streak of tough luck continued with a loss to Luis Nogueira in a season-six Bellator bantamweight quarterfinal bout, followed by a loss to current UFC flyweight Joshua Sampo.

Fast forward to today, where Vila stands at 2-3 in his last five bouts. The most recent of the defeats actually came in Vila’s debut event for World Series of Fighting, where he dropped a unanimous decision verdict to Josh Rettinghouse. A submission-savvy prospect from out of Spokane, Wash., Rettinghouse came in on a two-fight winning streak prior to defeating Vila.

“The disappointment was the decision,” Vila admitted. “The last fight [against Rettinghouse], I won the third round. The second round was close, but I felt better than Josh in the third round, so I don’t think the loss was the right decision in the fight.”

Vila gets the opportunity to rebound after that disappointing defeat when he competes at World Series of Fighting 8 on Jan. 18. His opposition comes in the form of Sidemar Honorio, who also suffered a defeat in his most recent WSOF outing against Jimmie Rivera. Despite the loss, “Sideco” nearly finished the fight early after dropping Rivera in the first round. Vila knows that Honorio can put up a gritty fight, but that won’t stop the American Top Team standout from ending this bout on his own terms.

“We have a lot of fighters in the camp that were ATT trained, like Alex Caceres, Yoel Romero and Jose Caceres,” Vila explained. “We have good training, good fighters from different divisions, and they help me out in areas that I have to work on a little more, so I take a little time to improve in my division.”

The flyweight class, despite every criticism placed on it in the past two years, remains a highly athletic division with solid competitors like Vila moving closer to the top with each win. If Vila must run the gauntlet at 135 pounds and defeat numerous bantamweight notables in order to get where he wants, then he will oblige without a second thought in mind. Ultimately, though, Vila’s eyes remain fixated on flyweight gold, and he plans on making his run towards a title, starting with Honorio this Saturday.

“At 125, I want to get the belt,” declared Vila. “And at 125, I want to fight anyone that you want to give the belt. If they take it from me, I’ll fight anyone, no exceptions. Anyone that you want to go to 125, if they try me and they get a belt, I will fight them.

“[The fans] are going to see the difference in Alexis Vila when I’m fighting in my natural weight class. They’ll see the difference in how I move and how I am in my comfort zone, because there’s more. I think that I’m the best at 125, and nobody will stop me from getting any belt at 125.

“The only thing I know is that it’s going to be an exciting fight, the only way I know how to take care of business. If he should stand up with me, I’ll knock him out, guaranteed. I don’t know what game plan he’ll bring to the table, but I know his game. He won’t try to take me down, and I hope on Jan. 18 that he’ll stand up with me.”

Alexis would like to thank his coaches, teammates and training partners at American Top Team, as well as the people who supported, trusted and prepared him for this fight. Follow Vila on Twitter: @Alexis_Vila135

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.